In Ezra Pound’s short poem “In a Station of the Metro,” Pound compares the apparitional faces of subway riders in Paris to “petals on a wet, black bough.” In other words, he compares the ghostly faces of Paris commuters to wet petals on a black branch.
Though Pound’s poem, as previously mentioned, is small (it consists of only two lines and 14 words), much has been said about the comparison.
Some have said that Pound’s comparison was inspired by Japanese poetry, particularly the haiku. Pound’s poem doesn’t follow the official haiku form—a proper haiku is three lines of five, seven, and five syllables. However, Pound’s poem embraces the general spirit of the haiku. The poem presents a striking image and a peculiar metaphor, which is what many haikus set out to do. The comparison might also have been inspired by Japanese prints, which regularly bring the human world and the natural realm into close contact, just as Pound’s poem does.
Whatever the inspiration, the comparison between the commuters and the petals is continually held up as an excellent example of Imagist poetry. The Imagist movement was led by Pound. He advocated for poetry that presented clear images, and it’s hard to argue that the comparison in “In a Station of the Metro” doesn’t provide its reader with a concise, vivid picture.